The United Nations’ human rights chief voiced alarm Thursday (10 March) over a draft deal between the EU and Ankara that could see “illegal” collective expulsions of migrants from Greece to Turkey.
“The EU’s draft arrangement with Turkey … raises a number of very serious concerns, (including) the potential for collective and arbitrary expulsions, which are illegal,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“Border restrictions which do not permit determination of the circumstances of each individual violate international and European law,” he said.
Zeid said he planned to discuss his concerns during a visit to Brussels early next week, ahead of a European Union summit on 17-18 March, where the controversial deal is expected to be finalised.
The deal would among other things see Turkey take back all illegal migrants landing in Greece.
Under the plan, the EU would meanwhile resettle one Syrian refugee from camps in Turkey in exchange for every Syrian that Turkey takes from Greece, in a bid to reduce the incentive for people to board boats for Europe.
Zeid hailed the generosity displayed by countries like Germany and Greece as Europe tries to deal with its biggest migrant crisis since World War II.
But he lamented that “today, in violation of the fundamental principles of solidarity, human dignity and human rights, the race to repel these people is picking up momentum.”
The EU has been locked in dispute over how to stem an unprecedented influx of migrants that has numbered more than a million since the start of 2015, many from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq and most aiming to reach wealthy Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.
“I must also reiterate my profound concern about restrictive measures such as erecting fences, denying people access to individualised procedures, and arbitrarily denying entry to people of specific nationalities,” Zeid said.
“I am in addition concerned about measures to seize belongings from people who may have already suffered greatly, and to restrict them from bringing in family members,” he said.
His comments came as EU interior ministers were set to meet in Brussels Thursday to discuss the migrant crisis after western Balkan nations slammed shut their borders, and to discuss the proposed deal with Turkey.